DEL RIO, TEXAS — The US flew back to its homeland on Sunday over a Texas border town to try to stop others from crossing the border with Mexico in what could be one of America’s fastest. Mass expulsion of migrants or refugees over decades.

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More than 320 migrants arrived in Port-au-Prince by three flights, and Haiti said six flights were expected on Tuesday. In all, US officials moved to expel many of the more than 12,000 migrants who had been camping around a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, after crossing from Ciudad Acua, Mexico.

The US plans to launch seven evacuation flights on Wednesday, four to Port-au-Prince and three to Cap-Haitian, according to a US official who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. The official said flights from San Antonio would continue but officials could add to El Paso.

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The only apparent parallel to such evictions without the opportunity to seek asylum was in 1992 when the Coast Guard stopped Haitian refugees at sea, said Yale Schachter, senior US attorney for Refugee International, whose doctoral studies contributed to the history of US asylum law. was focused on.

Similarly large numbers of Mexicans have been sent home during the peak years of immigration, but not on land more suddenly.

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Central Americans have also crossed the border in comparable numbers without mass expulsion, although Mexico has agreed to accept them from the US from March 2020 under pandemic-related authority. Mexico does not accept expelled Haitians or people of other nationalities outside. Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

When the border was closed on Sunday, migrants initially found other ways to cross nearby, until they were confronted by federal and state law enforcement. An Associated Press reporter noticed that Haitian immigrants were still crossing the river about 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) east of the previous location, but were eventually stopped by Border Patrol agents and Texas law enforcement officers on horseback.

As they were crossing, some Haitians carried boxes on their heads filled with food. Some took off their pants before landing in the river and took them away. Others were not worried about getting wet.

The agents shouted at the migrants crossing the river till their waist to get out of the water. Several hundred who had successfully crossed and sat along the river on the American side were ordered to move to the Del Rio camp. “Go now,” shouted the agent. Mexican officials in an airboat told others they were trying to cross to return to Mexico.

Migrant Charlie Jean had come back from the camps to Ciudad Acua to get food for his wife and three daughters aged 2, 5 and 12. He was waiting to bring an order of rice to a restaurant on the Mexican side.

“We need food for every day. I can go without, but my kids can’t,” said Jean, who had been living in Chile for five years before starting the trek north to the Americas. It was unknown if he crossed it back and to the camp.

Mexico said on Sunday that it would also begin sending Haitians to their homeland. A government official said the flights would be from cities near the US border and the border with Guatemala, where the largest group lives.

Haitians have been migrating to the US in large numbers from South America for many years, with many leaving their Caribbean nation after the devastating 2010 earthquake. After jobs were eliminated from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, many people made the dangerous trek by foot, bus and car to the US border, including the infamous Darien Gap, a Panamanian wilderness.

Some migrants from the Del Rio camp said the recent devastating earthquake in Haiti and the assassination of President Jovenel Mois have scared them of returning to a country that seems more unstable than they are.

“In Haiti, there is no security,” said Fabrisio Jean, a 38-year-old Haitian who arrived in Texas with his wife and two daughters. “The country is in a political crisis.”

Border Patrol Chief Raul L. Ortiz said on Sunday that 3,300 migrants had been taken from the Del Rio camp by planes or to detention centers since Friday. He expected to move around 3,000 of the 12,600 remaining migrants within a day, and targeted to move the rest within weeks.

Ortiz said, “We are working round the clock to rapidly move migrants from the heat, the elements and under this bridge to our processing facilities so that individuals from the United States are processed quickly and in line with our laws and our policies. to be removed.” Press conference on the Del Rio Bridge. The Texas city of about 35,000 people is located approximately 145 miles (230 kilometers) west of San Antonio.

Six flights were scheduled for Haiti on Tuesday – three in Port-au-Prince and three in the northern city of Cap-Haitian, Haiti’s director of migration Jean Negoté Bonheur Delva said.

The rapid removal was made possible by a pandemic-related authorization adopted by former President Donald Trump in March 2020 that allows migrants to be removed immediately from the country without the opportunity to seek asylum. President Joe Biden exempted unaccompanied children from the order but allowed the rest to stand.

Any Haitians who have not been expelled are subject to immigration laws, including the right to seek asylum and other forms of humanitarian protection. Families in the US are released early because the government usually cannot keep children.

Some of the first flight attendants covered their heads as they boarded a large bus parked next to the plane. Dozens of people lined up to receive a plate of rice, beans, chicken and bananas as they wondered where they would sleep and how they would earn money to support their families.

All were given $100 and tested for COVID-19, although officials were not planning to put them in quarantine, Marie-Lourde Jean-Charles said with the National Migration Office.

Gary Monplassir, 26, said his parents and sister live in Port-au-Prince, but he was unsure if he would live with them as he, his wife and their 5-year-old daughter had to travel to their home. Will have to cross Gang-controlled areas called martians are where killings are regular.

“I’m scared,” he said. “I have no plans.”

He moved to Chile in 2017 just as he was about to earn an accounting degree to work as a tow truck driver. He later paid his wife and daughter to join him. He tried to immigrate to America because he felt he could get a better paying job and help his family in Haiti.

“We are always looking for better opportunities,” he said.

Some migrants said they plan to leave Haiti again as soon as possible. Valeria Turnison, 29, said she and her husband wanted to move back to Chile with their 4-year-old son, where he worked as a bakery’s cashier.

“I’m really worried, especially for the baby,” she said. “I can’t do anything here.”

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Lozano reported from Ciudad Acua in Mexico, Sanon from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and Spaget from San Diego. Associated Press writers Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico and María Verza in Mexico City also contributed to this report.